Kobe's Festival of Lights: The Luminarie
Every December crowds gather in the Japanese city of Kobe as it holds its last festival of the year: the Luminarie. Every evening, for eleven days straight, over 200,000 colorful lights bring cheer to visitors and residents alike.
December in Japan is cold. I prefer to spend these nights shivering under my kotatsu with a warm cup of ocha. So when my girlfriend told me about the chance to walk around downtown Kobe for hours looking at lights, you can imagine my reluctance.
What? Another festival? The more she told me about the Luminarie more interested I was. She didn't have to tell me twice. I grabbed my camera and we were on our way. If you're in Kobe for the Luminarie, dress warm and follow the crowds streaming downtown.
If you can't make it then keep reading, I'll show you the way.
So what's going on?
The Luminarie is a festival in Kobe celebrated with thousands of colorful lights fixed on huge arches that tower over its downtown streets. Only certain streets in Kobe's swanky Sannomiya district are chosen. One beautiful street leads to another and it becomes a path visitors walk.
The path leads to the park: Higashi Uenchi (or Amusement Park East). At this park, there are more lights to enjoy. There are also vendors selling food and drink. Like other festivals, there are vendors who offer games but these are very few because of the weather.
Don't worry about the games. Enjoy the beer with Japanese treats such as karage (fried chicken) or corn on the cob. If beer is too cold then you'll find warm sake (also known as one-cup sake). For the kids there is hot chocolate, soda and tea.
You won't find yukatas or kimonos here. This is December at night. People dress warm and so should you.
Join the fun!
What is the Luminarie about?
The Luminarie began in 1995 as a memorial of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. This earthquake was one of Japan's strongest of the 20th century and especially devastating to Kobe. These lights and arches were a gift from Italy. They brought hope and cheer to the people still recovering from the damage. While Kobe has recovered, the message of the Luminarie is remembered every December.
Each year's Luminarie starts on a different date but usually begins on the first week of December. The festival lasts for eleven days. On Monday to Thursday, it's 6pm to 9pm. On Friday, it's 6pm to 10pm. On Saturday, it's 5pm to 10pm. On Sunday it's 5pm to 9:30pm.
If you're in the area, swing by. You might see me there!
Where is the Luminarie?
More Japanese festivals - Fun all year round!
- Kinro Kansha No Hi: Is it Labor Day or Thanksgiving?
This November Japanese holiday honors its workers and its harvest with a day off
- Summer Ends with Ikeda's Gangarabi Matsuri
Flame and fire's a plenty at this August holiday. Follow the torches and you're part of the parade!
- Welcome to Hoshi Kudari!
This small summer festival goes back hundreds of years. Come for the fun and amazing tradition
- Don't Miss the Ohatsu Tenjin Natsu Matsuri at Tsuyunotenjinsha Shrine
The ancient Tsuyunotenjinsha Shrine seems hidden in the Umeda district of Osaka. But then every July, this festival's parade show it's Shinto traditions
- Rain and Fireworks at the Inagawa River
Every August, north of Osaka, Kawanishi and Ikeda hold their own festival. It's a fireworks show over the river.